FABRIC IS HARD: A First Love, Learning Curves and ALAP (As Local As Possible)

FABRIC IS HARD: A First Love, Learning Curves and ALAP (As Local As Possible)

When I first selected the fabric that I wanted for Constant Mountain’s signature H2 jacket, I made a common mistake among people new to the “fashion” world. I started my search in a retail store. It wasn’t a typical big box mainstream fabric store. It was a locally owned warehouse that got fabric from everywhere… and nowhere, at least nowhere that you could discover to order more – and that was the issue. But I didn’t know that at the time. I spent hours walking the aisles touching the fabrics. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was looking for, but I knew that I would know it when I found it. And I did.

It was perfect, or as one early tester put it, “It’s like wearing a hug.” I was head over heels for this head-turning textile, dreaming in shades of heather grey. I loved it. But like all good love stories, there was a problem.

When I began Constant Mountain, I was passionate about full domestic production for my products. I spent over a year on the search for a mill that could supply my dream fabric. I talked to dozens of mills in the US who were polite and helpful but ultimately either couldn’t make the fabric that we wanted or couldn’t produce an initial order amount on an appropriate scale. Then, a ray of light. A promising lead willing to work with me on it. Until COVID-19. The pandemic wreaked havoc on the global supply chain. Suddenly, my most promising mill was forced to turn down orders because they couldn’t get raw materials, and their ability to accommodate our smaller scale production vanished. I was discouraged, but it was just another problem to solve.

The next obvious option was to just use some other fabric. I spent a considerable amount of time, effort and money trying to find a good alternative. But maybe you can never really forget your first love. Apparently, my jacket testers couldn’t either. Everyone who tried it fell in love with the original fabric just as I had, and despite all the alternatives, we kept coming back to the same spot. I worked with the local retailer to get as much of the fabric as they could provide to start production. But this didn’t fully solve the problem. So, I turned my search to a capable mill outside of the US, and it wasn’t long before I found a responsible resource in China that could make it and work on our start-up scale. Sourcing from across the world is complicated. The shipping is expensive. But in the end, there was no other option to deliver the original vision and comfort of Constant Mountain.

And so, the fabric used in our signature H2 Jacket is the one I fell in love with long ago. The fibers are 100% polyester and knit in a 3D spacer construction to produce a thicker, structured fabric without the added bulk of heavier knits. As we grow, Constant Mountain will be offering more jackets in a variety of styles and fabrics. Our guiding principle and my first choice will always be to source and work as locally as possible – without compromising the product we deliver. Sometimes as locally as possible is halfway around the world.